Asked once to sum up what it means to be a Christian, the Rev. Will D. Campbell said: "We are all bastards, but God loves us anyway."
That belief compelled his unusual life as a Southern Baptist minister who rejected organized religion, played a prominent role in central events of the civil rights movement and ministered to a broad range of humanity -- including country music stars like Waylon Jennings and members of the
A self-described bootleg preacher, "emeritus redneck" and author of books such as the National Book Award finalist "Brother to a Dragonfly," Campbell died June 3 in Nashville of complications from a 2011 stroke. He was 88.
Although not well-known outside the South, Campbell was the only white man admitted to the founding meeting of the Southern Christian Leadership Conference in 1957. That year he also helped steer nine black students -- the "Little Rock Nine" -- through an angry white mob as they attempted to integrate Central High School in Little Rock, Ark. And in 1960, when the Nashville lunch counter sit-ins were launched, he worked to mobilize sympathetic whites to support the civil rights campaign.
"There are a whole wide range of people who are not known outside their localities who were essential people in the struggle, and he was one of them," said the Rev. James Lawson, a longtime civil rights leader who was pastor for many years at Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles.
"He often got taunted because he was a pastor to the Ku Klux Klan," added Lawson, who organized the Nashville protests. "He was on the human side, no matter what human. He loved all humans in the great spectrum of life."
Read the full obituary here: Will D. Campbell, 88; maverick minster aided integration